India: Courageous Women

A doorway of opportunity has been opened for Ruksha at Aatma Vikas.

As Niruta encourages this 15-year-old to continue work training, she also warns the girl’s father about the dangers of selling his daughter into the sex trade or early marriage.

The children, so familiar with Niruta’s weekly visits to the women involved with Aatma Vikas, love to follow her from house to house.

Women work on sewing projects at Aatma Vikas.

Beads made by the women at Aatma Vikas.

Niruta helps one of the women with her hand-sewn beadwork.

Among workers in the sex trade of northern India, what they do is simply called “the business,” a white-washing of the ugly, devastating life many women have been forced into against their will.

Ruksha is one young woman who narrowly escaped the hellish downward spiral of the sex trade’s dark reality. “When my father told me to do the business, I didn’t want to do it. But I didn’t have much of a choice,” she says. Fortunately, Ruksha’s grandmother had heard of Aatma Vikas, a training program for women wishing to

leave the sex trade. Here was a real chance for a different, life-changing option. Ruksha knew that if she could learn to make a living outside the sex-trade, she could provide for her siblings.

“I am relieved in my heart. I now don’t have to be a part of what my father wanted for me,” she says. Through Aatma Vikas, Rusksha sews and makes jewelry. The products are sold online via TheSkippingStone.com.

The director of Aatma Vika’s training initiatives among vulnerable women is Neruta. She is a fierce defender of women like Ruksha whose lack of education and family situations offer few options other than the sex trade. Neruta says that women in the brothels are forced to service up to 18 men per day. “If the women do not do what they are asked to do, they are beaten, tortured and abused…locked away in a room by themselves without food.”

As an advocate for these vulnerable women, Neruta knows the dangers of “the business” personally. With a knife to her side, several pimps threatened her to stop helping. “If you continue to do your work with the girls, we will kill you, cut you into pieces and scatter the pieces so no one can find you.” Undaunted, Neruta has been working with these vulnerable women for 18 years and says she wants to do so much more. “I want to help remove all of the bad memories from the brothel and fill them with good things for the rest of their lives.”

If you would like to help these women by donating or buying their products, please go to www.the skippingstone.com and www.avikas.org

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